Real estate challenge

TCU Real Estate Team Brings Home the Gold

TCU Neeley students went the distance for a year to win First Place and $50,000 over every school in the country in the Real Confidence™ University Portfolio Challenge.  

August 12,  2016

By Elaine Cole

“The real-life investment experience attracted me to the challenge,” said PMBA student Victoria Shlakhter, senior analyst at Goldman Sachs and the only graduate student on the team. “When else would I have $1B to allocate at my own discretion and see it unfold?”

The TCU Neeley team managed the best portfolio with a return of nearly 35 percent over four quarters to win the $50,000 prize.

Dr. Mo Rodriguez chose five students for the year-long real estate asset portfolio challenge: part-time professional MBA student Victoria Shlakhter and four senior TCU undergrad finance majors, Max Mueller, Caitlin Zirpolo, Caleb Lade and Paul Pendergrass.

More than 90 students from 15 universities competed. Each team had $1 billion in theoretical capital to dispense among commercial real estate investment opportunities. The performance of each sector’s weighted investment selection was calculated with its respective benchmark return data.

“I cannot emphasize enough how many great conclusions I heard from my team. I enjoyed the team’s motivation, subject-matter expertise and focus,” Victoria said.

The TCU Neeley team focused on listed REITs, primarily in the self-storage and industrial segments, believing that self-storage would remain strong since consumers, particularly millennial renters, need storage due to limited apartment space. The team expected the industrial sector would benefit from e-commerce and economic growth. TCU’s total return results were an impressive 34.68 percent, compared with the University Portfolio I index at 17.14 percent, or the broader volatile S&P 500 at only 1.74 percent.

“Since the competition was based on return, we put 100 percent of the money into equity, not worrying about diversification,” Caitlin said. “We went for the high-risk, high-reward strategy and it paid off. Our team worked for over two months gathering information and coming up with the best strategy for success. It was a privilege to be a part of such a successful team that Professor Rodriguez brought together.” Caitlin is now a shopping centers broker associate at Matthews Retail Advisors.

“We learned from TCU professors like Dr. Rodriguez, whose real-world teaching helped further our understanding of the real estate industry,” said Max, now an analyst/project manager for Ridge Development Company. “Everything I learned in this competition has daily application to my career now.”

Victoria has this advice for other TCU students, whether graduate or undergraduate, full-time or part-time, working or not: “When considering any extra-curriculum opportunity, get involved! The experience of working with a team, sharing ideas and just getting to know one another is worth more than the time you may spend on the project.”

The top 15 teams with their respective returns were:

University Team & Rank

(FINAL) 4 Quarter Return



2 University of Chicago


3 Middle Tennessee State


4 Georgia State


5 University of Denver


6 Johns Hopkins University


7 Lehigh University


8 University of San Diego


9 Texas A&M


10 College of Charleston


11 Georgetown University


12 University of Wisconsin


13 Penn State University


14 Florida International


15 Harvard University


The Real Confidence™ University Portfolio Challenge is made possible by Altus Group Limited in collaboration with the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts and the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries.